After the last 120 minutes of Premier League football, we’re 1-0 up against City/Liverpool. If I was Allardyce, you’d hammer me for that. And rightly so. It a meaningless stat, given City had taken their foot off the gas, if not our throat, and Liverpool made enough changes for it to be considered a ‘weakened side’. For us to fail to beat our fiercest rivals, given this opportunity, seems like such a real miss.
A miss, which sums up the last 15′ of the match. Surely, one day, fortune will smile on Blue not Red, or if we can’t rely on ‘Lady Luck at The Old Lady’, then perhaps we could have enough quality in the side to be able to bury the chances we created. I love Calvert-Lewin, he’s played out of his skin all season, he’s assumed a mantle that shouldn’t have been his for a season or two, but as yet he is far from the finished article. Brilliant at winning headers high up the pitch, good at flicks, good energy and closing down, but his lack of a clinical edge in front of goal was cause for just one of the chances that went begging, and it happened to be the best one.
But let’s not dwell too much on him, and perhaps, dare I say it, we’re better off drawing rather than ending our barren victory spell over the RS against a below-strength side, and all the “Yeh, but…” we’d have had to endure when we wanted to savour a victory. Perhaps, again, we’re better off waiting to beat them on their own patch next season after a full-blooded derby game when no prisoners are taken, and maybe not everyone stays on the pitch. Hands up who thought the most surprising stat of the day was that there wasn’t a single booking, let alone the threat of a red card. That word again, perhaps, that underlines the nature of the game. Not exactly blood and thunder. Oh, and to be clear, I’d have taken a victory and put up with the excuses.
What can we take out of the game? Apart from Bolasie, every player in Blue scored a fairly steady 6 or 7 out of 10, and amongst the highest achievers was the much-maligned-of-late Morgan Schneiderlin. He got his shorts dirty and everything. This was a much better performance than the ambivalence in the fan zone predicted as his name was announced on the team sheet, but credit where it’s due, he did fine. If he’d played like that all year, there’d be complaints (this is Everton), but fewer than he’s had. Does this surmount his flaunting of the Nil Satis Nisi Optimum creed? No. Is he good enough to stay? No. But you’d have to say he did a fair enough job on the day.
There’s been a few notes about Rooney’s apparent petulance when substituted after barely an hour, but frankly, I’m delighted he’s hacked off. You want him to be bothered, you want him to show to the team, the squad, that you want to play in the blue shirt for 90+ minutes and stick in a maximum effort and rare skills to win the game. The truth is, he hadn’t played badly, but the manager (for all his faults) made the call that we needed fresh legs, and he was probably right. Would we have had that pulsating last quarter of an hour if he was still on the pitch? Well, we’ll never know, but the evidence is that he was off the pitch and we had a stormer. I’m prepared to bet, however, that if that late chance had fallen to Wayne rather than Dom, it would have been buried. Hey ho. A ‘what if’ and an ‘if only’ to give us something to grumble about over the summer.
Let’s get back to Bolasie shall we? He had a stinker. His shot produced a magnificent save from Karius, but that was his only contribution. He spent the rest of his uncomfortable hour on the pitch with his hands splayed out, demonstrating all too visibly that he didn’t have a clue what his role was supposed to be. Something was presumably lost in translation then, because DCL seemed to know what to do when he replaced him, and did rather more of it in his first minute on the pitch than Bolasie had done in the preceding 61. So, accepting he had a ‘mare, what I won’t accept is the dog’s abuse he got from the Everton fans, particularly those around me. It started barely 5 minutes in to the game, ironically starting with a ‘fan’ that normally doesn’t turn up until 5 minutes have passed, but on this occasion was sat on his comfy plastic bucket seat as applause rang around the ground for the wonderful man and player, Ray Wilkins. Why? Why do that to your own player, not just voicing your discontent, but doing so in a way that frankly should have been a matter for the stewards if our tolerance of appalling language and (questionably) casual racism is supposed to be what it is: unacceptable. Was an overt reference made to Bolasie’s skin colour? No. But was there a slur that conforms to certain racial stereotypes? Yes. And it’s not the first time in my experience. Lukaku and Yakubu were called by some: “lazy”. Bolasie had two – “a fat lazy c***”, and “have you been smoking something because you’re spaced out”. Many of you will jump down my throat, and good on you, your right and all, but I’m just saying it makes me feel uncomfortable.
What I’d prefer is for Bolasie’s role to be made crystal clear by the Manager, or more likely select someone more able to perform it, and use Bolasie as one of a fearsome front 3 with Tosun and Walcott, and let everyone worry about us, not us worry about them.
That’s it, this damp squib of a season can’t come soon enough, if only so we can enter in to a discourse about why so many people call it a damp squid; after all, are there any squid that aren’t damp? I prefer my fireworks to go off with gusto and excitement, so give me a dry and inflammable, explosive squib any day of the week. FWIW, that squib could just be the one that got the booing on Saturday. He’s torn us a new one when playing for Palace, in fact more than once, so he’s clearly capable.
Perhaps, just perhaps, just a couple more, it’ll take a new manager to get the best out of him.